Farming groups are disappointed following the rejection by MPs of an amendment in the Agriculture Bill that would protect farmers from imports that do not meet UK welfare and environmental standards.
The Agricultural Bill, which will be the biggest reform to British farming since 1945, will replace the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which governed how the industry is regulated and funded.
The amendment to the bill by the Food and Rural Affairs Committee Chair, Neil Parish, aimed for the bill to only allow the importation of agricultural goods if the standards are as high or higher than UK standards for animal welfare, environmental protection, food safety, hygiene and traceability. Despite government support for this during the Bill’s report stage, it was defeated by 51 votes at its final Third Reading on 13 May.
Mr Parish called the vote outcome “disappointing”, adding that many in the Commons now have “grave concerns over the Bill’s direction of travel.
His concerns were echoed by several other campaigners, including the RSPCA, the National Trust and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), which described the vote against the amendment as a “missed opportunity”.
However, ministers from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) argued that the amendment could compromise future trade negotiations, and was unnecessary, as all EU import standards will be converted into domestic law by the end of the December 2020 transition period.
In addition, Liz Truss, Secretary of State for International Trade, has recently confirmed she is negotiating with the US to lift trade barriers, to create opportunities for UK farmers both on exports and cheaper production inputs.
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